One of my best friends from undergrad is a wheelchair user and, like me, a writer. She and I had brunch a couple of weeks ago and we discussed how stories of people with disabilities are often classifiable as disability inspiration, miserable literature, or overcoming adversity. We agreed that the discourse and the narrative presentation surrounding disability needed to change. She said she planned to take a class on queer theory in her disability studies graduate course because there are many similarities between the perception of homosexuality and the perception of disability.
I don’t watch much television, but I have in the last few weeks since I’ve been home with my family. I saw a commercial for laundry detergent featuring a gay couple. They weren’t presented as anything out of the ordinary. They were seen as perfectly natural (which is what they are). They were at odds about buying concentrated versus discount laundry detergent. This is how homosexuality and disability should both be presented: as non-issues.
iO Tillett Wright gave a TED talk about her photographic project Self Evident Truths, which featured thousands of photographs of people who identified along a spectrum of sexuality: they did not consider themselves one hundred percent straight. The beauty of this project is that these people are just people. Their sexuality shouldn’t be an issue. Wright captured people in a beautiful, honest, and moving way, to illustrate that sexuality is on a continuum, it is one facet of a person’s character, and that it should never be a reason for discrimination, hate or bigotry.
Disability is very much the same, but it’s not perceived as such. It’s perceived in a binary way: you’re disabled or you’re not. There is a massive spectrum of disability, from people like me who have mild physical impairments to people who cannot feed themselves, and everything in between. But it’s still often considered one or the other: able bodied or disabled, normal or disabled (this is why I hate the word normal and the idea of normal).
I wish that people could just be considered human beings rather than grouped into boxes, labeled, and stereotyped. I’m guilty of doing it; everyone judges everyone unconsciously the moment they see them. I just wish that things like disability and sexuality were never considered causes for concern, differences, or ‘not being normal.’ I think the world would be a happier and healthier place.